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'It's been exciting to see the change': Caldwell mayor optimistic about growth, if it's done right

First-term Caldwell Mayor Jarom Wagoner says he understands many don't want change, but just stopping growth "is never a good thing."

CALDWELL, Idaho — Caldwell Mayor Jarom Wagoner has a lot of experience in planning a city's growth. He's worked as a planning consultant, a city planner for Caldwell, a transportation planner for ACHD, and a planner with Canyon County.

Right now, he's drawing on all that experience to not only figure out what Caldwell should look like in 20 years, but also figure out the path to get there. The main feature of that path seems to be attracting not just growth, but different types of growth.

"It's been quite the journey, you could say," Wagoner said.

Three decades before he was the mayor of Caldwell, Wagoner was just a teen moving to this city from eastern Idaho. A lot has changed since then, with the city more than tripling in size.

Credit: City of Caldwell
Caldwell Mayor Jarom Wagoner, 2022

"So it's a lot different than what we have now. But it's been exciting to see the change," Wagoner said. "And it's so exciting to be part of the change."

But Wagoner also says tons of folks don't want to be a part of that change.

"I share those same concerns. Like, this is why we moved to Caldwell, this is why we love Caldwell. We don't want to lose that identity, and I'm right there with them," he said.

But while the mayor understands not wanting to change, as a city planner with years of experience, he also understands the need for that change.

"Growth is going to happen. I mean, you could stop growth, but that, in my opinion is never a good thing. You don't want to become stagnant in your community," Wagoner said. "You know, our downtown is so vibrant right now compared to what it was 10-15 years ago, and we don't want to lose that."

The mayor says stopping the city's growth would get you the equivalent of a slimy stagnant pool. That's opposed to a clear, flowing mountain stream, which is what you get with responsible growth.

But he also says, "The thing that we've had issue with the last few years, not just Caldwell but throughout the Treasure Valley, is that gentle stream has become a gushing waterfall. And so that's what we got to be careful of too."

Wagoner says the key to keeping growth from stagnating or becoming too much too fast, is growing in not just residential, but also commercial and industrial. He uses the example of the Charles project along Karcher Road that was approved a few months ago. It includes apartments, retail, restaurants, a hotel, and even some space that could be a fire station.

"How do we maintain that as a gentle slope, to attract new businesses and new enterprises to Caldwell, along with those great families that need to come and fill those jobs? And so that's kind of the details that as we look at -- land use cases and applications, filling the voids that we have, and filling them with the right product in the right development," Wagoner said.

The mayor believes that means getting everyone on the same page, city council and developers, so they all know what type of developments are needed and will be approved.

"This is what the city council, the city is wanting for the future, this is where we want to go," Wagoner said. "So that they know that when they come forward with the project, they can put those details into their plan, they show that they're trying to create the vision that we want to see as a city."

Wagoner added that it's key for city leaders to work with Canyon County leaders. That way they can preserve the agriculture and water in those rural areas of the county, while providing opportunities for more dense development in the city.

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